Science Cafés in the Spring Semester 2014

February 11, 2014

Why do things have mass? Discovery of the Higgs Boson

Andrei Kryjevski
Department of Physics, North Dakota State University

Objects around us have mass which is a measure of resistance to changes in their motion. But where exactly does mass come from at the most elementary level? In this talk, the mechanism of mass generation for subatomic particles that constitute ordinary matter called the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, as well as recent discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will be discussed qualitatively.

March 11, 2014

Flu pandemic and why it may not happen again

Mazz Marry
Department of Bioscience, Minnesota State University Moorhead

A typical virus is one billionth the size of an average human being, and yet, some viruses have the ability to kill a human with 24 hours following initial exposure. The Influenza H1N1 virus is a subtype of the influenza A virus, which are negative-sense, single-stranded, segmented RNA viruses. This viral strain typically mainly affects the soft tissue of the nose, mouth and the trachea, and, although easily transmitted, is considered rarely fatal. This being said, how did the Influenza H1N1 virus cause a pandemic? The 1918 flu pandemic was the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the second being the 2009 flu pandemic). It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic. It killed between 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world's population at the time), thus making it the most deadly disease outbreak in human history. This pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza outbreak, now widely considered to have acted on the victims in conjunction with the induction of a cytokine storm, overloading the immune system, and causing uncontrollable hemorrhaging of all lung tissue Will this happen again? We will consider the roles modern scientific knowledge, medical practices, the WHO, the CDC, and global communications will play in preventing a reoccurrence of such a pandemic.

April 08, 2014

Why stress is bad for our health and what we can do about it

Clayton J. Hilmert
Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University

We know that stress is bad for us. Science has shown that the more stress people have in their lives the more likely they will develop colds, need more medicine, develop heart disease, and live shorter lives. But how does “stress,” something generated by events in our lives and sustained by thoughts in our heads, have these effects? Recent research in behavioral medicine, including work done at NDSU, has been uncovering various pathways by which stress harms our health. In tandem with this research, psychologists have been investigating ways to avoid the adverse impacts of stress on health. Current research is focusing on how training ourselves to interact with the world in more mindful ways can help us prevent any negative impact of stress. Other research has emphasized the importance of our social lives in avoiding the negative health impact of stress. This Science Café will include a discussion of some of the scientific insights we have made concerning how stress affects our health and how we might be able to short circuit these effects.